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Santorini sights itinerary help for July

We will be in Santorini for 2 nights (arriving by ferry from Naxos around 3pm and leaving the third day at 5pm, by flight), July 28-30. We are 2 adults and 2 teens (13 and 15). We will be staying in Imerovigli. I am trying to organize tours/activities. I was looking into booking a private customized 1/2 day tour but they all seem to be 300euro + guide. For the 1/2 day tour we would like to go see the Red beach and the moonscape beach, swim at a black beach, visit Akrotiri and maybe the ancient Thera ruins and have lunch in a traditional village. I am looking for itinerary suggestions for the first day after 5pm, itinerary and tour suggestions for the full next day and suggestions for the third day (we have till 3:30 pm). We dont want to do wine tours or boats. Any advice is highly appreciated. This is a very helpful and wise forum and the experts think like I do so I value all your advice. Thank you.
P.S. I checked the cruise ship list and I believe there are no dockings that weekend.

Posted by
8020 posts

Rent a car for the day to do this intinerary; Santorini is a very small island.
Visit the beaches and ancient Akrotiri. Go inland to visit less visited towns.

Posted by
1023 posts

Pretty much everything you want to do is basically all in the same area of Santorini. Just rent the car so you can have flexibility as to what you want to see.
Since you are in the area you might want to visit the old Medieval capital of Pyrgos. It still has high town walls.

Posted by
12 posts

Hello all,
Thank you very much for the suggestions. I was also leaning towards renting a car since it is cheaper and gives us the freedom to wander and linger where we want. However after some research about car rentals in Santorini, charging people for minor or non-existent dents, after they have left the island scared me away. We will be renting a car in Naxos. How is the driving in Santorini? We will not go off-road and not on any winding paths (my son has motion sickness). So if we stay on the main roads will we be ok? And are there reputable car rentals you can recommend?

Posted by
1023 posts

Driving in Santorini can be a bit hairy particularly if you are not used to a standard. The roads are good but a bit narrow and of course hilly. Indeed there are some crooked car rental agencies but for the most part they are honest hard working companies. If you find a rental agency google reviews before booking. The bad ones are pretty obvious. By the way you will need an International Drivers Permit. You can get one inexpensively at AAA. You probably can't even rent a car now without one. Fines are huge.
Here is another thought. Contact your hotel and ask them if they know someone perhaps a taxi driver who would be willing to take you around the island. They probably know who is willing to do that. Since it won't be a guided tour it should be less expensive than the tours you have been researching.
I forgot to post Santorini images. Lots to see.
Santorini http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632154800782/

Posted by
12 posts

Hello stanbr,
Amazing photos. Excitement for upcoming trip skyrocketed after I saw the photos. We have decided to book a car with Motor Inn. I read good reviews about them. 3 day rental with super collision damage waiver. Will pick up car from their Fira office. We come into Santorini via the Blue Star Delos and will take a cab to the rental office. We fly out of the airport and when I asked them how I return the car (they dont have an office at the airport) they said return car to the airport parking lot designated for rental car returns and keep keys under the mat. Has anyone done this sort of return with MotorInn or any other local rental in Santorini? I am being asked to return the car unlocked that is making me a bit nervous. Simos at MotorInn laughed when I spoke with him and said they do this all the time. Any input?

Posted by
12 posts

Hello stanbr,
Amazing photos. Excitement for upcoming trip skyrocketed after I saw the photos. We have decided to book a car with Motor Inn. I read good reviews about them. 3 day rental with super collision damage waiver. Will pick up car from their Fira office. We come into Santorini via the Blue Star Delos and will take a cab to the rental office. We fly out of the airport and when I asked them how I return the car (they dont have an office at the airport) they said return car to the airport parking lot designated for rental car returns and keep keys under the mat. Has anyone done this sort of return with MotorInn or any other local rental in Santorini? I am being asked to return the car unlocked that is making me a bit nervous. Simos at MotorInn laughed when I spoke with him and said they do this all the time. Any input?

Posted by
1801 posts

We returned our rental car to the port which was very similar to what you described. I called the rental car company and told them exactly where I left the car. I too put the keys under the mat.

That said, the driving in santorini was more difficult than I expected. The roads are narrow, curvy, and at times there is a lot of congestion. And the Drivers on santorini are aggressive. I was white knuckled at first but got used to it and had no problems.

Beth

Posted by
1023 posts

Indeed it is common to return the rental car to a specific location and leave the keys in the unlocked car. Not typical for north Americans but pretty standard in
Greece.
If you can see if you can get an automatic. The highlight of our visit to Santorini last Sept was when I stalled our manual rental car in the middle of an intersection with traffic coming form both directions. All I can remember was my son screaming from the back seats" God dad no." Fortunately although the locals drive aggressively, they do remember their brakes do work.

Posted by
12 posts

Appreciate all the input. We have booked an automatic. Beth where did you go while in Santorini? We will skip ancient Thira because of the switchbacks. How was the drive to Ia? Was that windy too? Also any suggestions for Ia dining?

Posted by
1801 posts

Ancient thira and the road to the monastery past Pyrgos are switch backs. No where else. It is windy between Fira and oia but pretty straight between Fira and Akitori. Traffic was the worst in Fira. Very tight roads. If you drive to oia, there are several large lots as you come into town. There is a way to drive to ammoudi bay but we walked down the steps (and back up!). There are several restaurants down there that people recommend although we didn’t eat there. We went swimming and were soaked. It is beautiful there with the red rock against the sea.
I had twice as much planned as we ended up doing the day we rented a car. So my advice is to do what is most important to you first (we went to akitori.) and then go with the flow. It is all good.

And if you don’t like windy roads, plan to be back at your place before dark.

Beth

Posted by
1023 posts

As long as you have an automatic the switchbacks up to Ancient Thira are not going to be a problem at all.

Posted by
2951 posts

If you choose a reputable, trustworth rental company you won't be cheated. Check Vazeos in Oia, Tony's in Firostefani, Spiridakos in Fira and at the Ferry Port, and Motor Inn in Kamari Beach. They will all deliver a car to you at the airport or at your hotel.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you Beth. Read your trip report last night. I felt like I was already there. We are only doing Naxos (4 nights), Santorini (2 nights) and Athens (5 nights). No Peloponnese except Delphi. We booked the car from MotorInn and will pick it up from their office in Fira. We are staying in Imerovigli so hubby will have to drive from Fira to Imerovigli. I showed him a Youtube video of how the driving on Santorini would be with the people, tourists, motorbikes, cars and buses. I guess the key is drive slow and give everyone right of way!!

Posted by
12 posts

This is my tentative plan for Santorini and would love feedback:
Arrive by ferry 3pm (Sat). Take cab to Fira office of Motor Inn. Rent car and drive to hotel in Imerovigli.
Freshen up and drive to Ia. Walk around and then drive back to see sunset from Imerovigli. We dont want to drive with the returning crowds and after dusk.
Any restaurant suggestions for Ia? I liked your suggestion of Seagull Beth. Any clues so we can find it easily?

Next day (Sun) drive to Akrotiri (ruins about 2 hrs), Red beach and lighthouse. Would like to check out Melina's tavern.
Drive to Vilchada beach (photo op). Lunch and swim at Perissa (Apollon Tavern)
Drive back via Megalochori or if hubby is up for it drive upto ancient Thira.
Depending on when we get back and how everyone is doing walk down to Amoudi bay.

Mon morning walk from Imerovigli to Fira (Lucky's gyros) and back or Skaros rock.
Prehistoric musuem of Fira
Return car to airport and fly to Athens on Olympic air 5pm (at airport by 4pm should be ok, right?)

Please let me know if this is ambitious or doable and please feel free to comment on my choice of eateries.

Posted by
2951 posts

Why not just have them deliver a car to you at the ferry port and be done with it? It is not safe to go down to the Red Beach but you can see it from above at the end of the road in Akrotiri. Visit the Akrotiri archaeological site in the early morning at 8am before the tour buses arrive. To visit Ancient Thera you will have to walk uphill about 1/2 mile to get to the site. Some people don't realize this. I just thought you should know. On July 29 there are 3 ships scheduled to visit Santorini. That would be a good day to avoid Fira and Oia.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank Lee for all your advice. Motor Inn had offered to bring the car to the port but I demurred. I have read that the drive up from the port is very windy and didn't want to hazard it.

Red and white beach will both be photo-op stops. I know the Red Beach area is fragile and even though people still go there we should respect nature and let fragile areas heal.

Do you have any favorite restaurants near Akrotiri and Perissa/Perivolos tha you like?

About ancient Thira: Lee are you talking about the hiking path from Perissa? Or you drive up the crazy switchbacks from Kamari, park the car and THEN another 1/2 mile hike up?

Posted by
2951 posts

The switchback road up the cliff from the port is easy to navigate. It's very wide to accomodate the large trucks and buses that come and go on and off the island. The turns themselves are extra wide. No worries.

You drive up the crazy switchbacks from Kamari, park the car and THEN another 1/2 mile hike up.

I had lunch twice in Perissa but down towards the Perivolos end of the beach at a lovely beachfront restaurant. Can't remember the name but there is an unmistakable display case for fish on ice in front built to resemble a small boat. Excellent food and very friendly service.

Posted by
12 posts

Wonderful Lee. Will definitely look for your fish-display taverna in Perivolos.
And thank you very much for the description of the road from the port. It will save me 35euro cab fare if I can get the car delivered to the port.
On Saturday I was thinking of dinner and sunset at Oia but most of the restaurants look very exotic and expensive for our budget. And I am very worried about driving back to Imerovigli after sunset. So I am leaning towards a quick meze bite/drinks maybe in Lotza and then head back down.
I have another question: I keep hearing about the amazing sunset views from Oia but it must also be an equally amazing site to see the last sunrays light up the houses in Oia. So where best can we get that view? From Finikia, Imerovigli or Firostafani?

Posted by
2951 posts

Spiridakos has a car rental office right at the port. They have a website. If you live outside the EU be sure to bring an International Driving Permit with you. Greek law requires it even if the rental company doesn't ask you for it.

If you want a 'bird's-eye' view of Oia, the whole caldera and the sunset all at the same time there's a great place to see it away from all the crowds. Located in Finikia, at the end of the settlement closest to Fira (the south end) you will see a small concrete square bus stop/shelter. Next to is is a flight of steps leading up the cliff to a small chapel, 5 minutes at most walking. Look here: https://tinyurl.com/ycbgduna From up there you can see the whole caldera and have an unobstructed view of Oia as the colors change on the buildings during the sunset. I actually prefer this location to all others. After the sun sets walk back down to the road where you parked your car and drive back towards Oia a short distance to the restaurant Santorini Mou. The food is excellent and nowhere near as expensive as most of Oia's restaurants, and as a bonus the owner and his friends play music and sing and sometimes there is dancing. Try to get a table outside. That's where the "action" is. Call ahead or use their website to make a reservation to make sure you get a table outside.

By the way, your teens might enjoy the unique experience of actually swimming inside the caldera. Drive down below Oia to Amoudi Bay and walk along the seawall that begins at the far end of the wharf, about 1/4 mile. This is what you'll find there: https://tinyurl.com/y954scy8

Posted by
2904 posts

Lee, that is a WONDERFUL tip! I have bookmarked it! Thanks so much! I learn something every summer from you ... TJ

Posted by
12 posts

Cannot thank you enough Lee. I have marked the spot on the map. That's exactly the sort of place I was looking for. Will post and report back once we return from our trip. Happy rest of summer everyone!

Posted by
1801 posts

You have yourself going to Oia twice. Amoudi Bay is down the steps from Oia and you have it on your itinerary on Sunday but have you also going to Oia on Saturday.

That said, I would go to Amoudi Bay over Perssia beach. Amoudi Bay is really unusual to swim at. My 20 something kids all swam out to a man made deck and went "cliff jumping". I just swam in the water--I do not like to jump. Your kids would love it. You walk through the fish restaurants and on a path that gets a bit shaky at times to rocks where people are sun bathing. You can just slip into the water.

Sunday. You are never going to do everything you have scheduled. There is a road side stand near Red Beach that we went to for lunch after Akrotiri. Very decent food. Do not know where Melanie’s tavern is. Make sure you have a map so turn in right place to see lighthouse.

We went to Akrotiri, lunch at road side stand, red beach, lighthouse, monastery above Pyrgos and then to Fira for dinner. We left at about 10:30 am from Oia. We got to Fira about 6 pm and wandered around a bit. We had 7 and you have 4 people so I am sure you can do more than we could but I thought we could do more than we did too!

We never made it to the prehistoric museum in Fira. It closes at 3. We did see artifacts from Akriotiri in Athens.

We planned to eat at the restaurant Lee recommended but never made it there. It is actually a ways out of Oia and the day we were going to go we had hiked from Oia to Fira and gone swimming after returning to Oia at Amoudi Bay. We were too tired to walk there. I saw it though driving and it would work for you as it is part way back to your hotel. You have to drive to Oia from Fira via a "detour" as the most direct way is very narrow and during the summer it is only one way. It is the more direct road you would take from Oia to your hotel so would be shorter to return after visiting Oia than to get there which would work well if it is dusky when you leave the restaurant.

Beth

Posted by
12 posts

Hello Beth, You are right about Perissa vs Amoudi bay. Maybe we'll do a photo op at Perissa and focus on Amoudi bay for the late afternoon. I have to play around the plans a bit because I want to avoid Ia on Sunday (with three cruise ships coming in).
And I totally agree with over-scheduling. I am so guilty of that. So now I call them friendly, thoughtful (read researched) suggestions that I throw out everyday. I understood you completely when you said "go with the flow". I will try to do that.